Steve Torrence Makes History, Wins 6th And Final Race Of NHRA Countdown To Clinch The Championship Sweep!
One year ago, Steve Torrence was deeply dejected and a little bit pissed off. If ...
One year ago, Steve Torrence was deeply dejected and a little bit pissed off. If there was no “Countdown to the Championship” points reset following the US Nationals, Torrence and his CAPCO team would have been crowned world champions. Instead, the championship slipped ever so slightly from his grasp as Brittany Force won three races in the Countdown to win by a scant 81 points.
Torrence had a few choice words about the Countdown format but also vowed to do whatever it took to win the title in 2018. After leaving Indy with the points lead again in 2018, Torrence and company went to work making good on Steve’s promise, reeling off the most improbable string of wins in NHRA history.
Nobody really thought much of Steve winning the first two races following the Countdown reset. He’d already won 5 races on the season, so nobody was really surprised to see him reel off a couple of wins at Maple Grove and St. Louis to kick off the Countdown.
When he continued his dominance by winning the next two events in Dallas and Charlotte, the buzz began to build about a possible sweep, which had never taken place in the history of the Countdown format. Torrence had already won an incredible sixteen straight rounds, a feat that’s nearly impossible, even outside of the pressure-cooker that is the 6-race season-ending Countdown to the Championship. Though he hadn’t mathematically clinched the title, it was all but a formality at this point, with just about everybody signing off on Torrence having made good on his vow. Steve was hungry, his crew was hungry. They didn’t just want to win the championship, they wanted to put a massive black, white and red exclamation point on the season by winning out.
The tour rolled into Vegas, where Torrence did mathematically eliminate any chance of the title slipping away again. The vow was fulfilled, the title belonged to Steve and the CAPCO boys. But they weren’t done. They would race again to victory in Vegas, running the tally to 20 straight rounds and five races in a row. The buzz became an outright roar. The fans were rabid, the media sat on the edge, fellow competitors all wanted to be the one to end the streak, but I have no doubt, deep down inside, they wanted it to continue. This would be a once-in-a-lifetime occurrence, something never seen before and possibly never to be seen again, and whether they’d ever openly admitted it, I have to believe most, if not all of the other top fuel drivers were pulling for Torrence to pull off the sweep. But none of them showed it on the track, and that’s what this sport is all about. We root for one another, but by God we want those round wins to be earned, not given.
The World Finals in Pomona was all about the sweep. Sure, the Funny Car, Pro Stock, and Pro Stock Bike world championships were still up for grabs, and there was plenty of drama and excitement around those stories. But everybody wanted to know if the CAPCO car could pull out the stops and run the tally to 24 straight round wins.
Qualifying went well, with Steve rolling into eliminations on Sunday from the #2 spot behind our very own Leah Pritchett. Round one went Steve’s way, but the car kicked the supercharger off in the lights. This meant a little extra work for the crew, but the tally stood at 21. Round 2 would find Steve lined up with his own dad, Billy, who absolutely reeled off a straight right cross in the form of a 3.712 at 329 MPH, to quell any concerns that Father might take a dive for Son. It took just about all of Steve’s 3.67 – the quickest run in eliminations – to ensure the consecutive round win tally would climb to 22.
In the semifinals, outgoing world champion Brittany Force connected with a staggering uppercut of her own, a stout 3.708 at 332 MPH that was only 0.013 of a second behind Torrence, who’d left first by a hundredth and went three thousandths quicker through the 1,000-foot timers.
Twenty-three round wins in a row.
There could be no more perfectly suited opponent in the final round than Tony “The Sarge” Schumacher. The winningest driver in Top Fuel history, racing his last race under the Army banner and looking to end the season on a high note. It wasn’t quite David vs Goliath, but more like Alabama vs Georgia for the NCAA Football championship last year (don’t judge me, I’m a huge Bama fan).
Steve would leave first by .024 hundredths. Schumacher would be quicker on the track but by just two thousandths. At the stripe, with 22,000 horsepower between them and both cars topping 330 MPH, they were separated by less than 0.023 seconds. The sweep was complete. Twenty-four round wins in a row meant Torrence and his team had permanently etched their names in the NHRA history books as the first to ever pull of a sweep of the Countdown.
As always, Torrence gave the credit to God and his crew. Most drivers will tell you they can’t do anything to make the car faster, but they can certainly make mistakes that make it go slower. For six races straight, the crew and driver had both performed flawlessly, adding that emphatic point to the season that belonged to Torrence from the second race on tour.
Once again, we send our congrats to Steve, Billy, Mama T, Richard Hogan, Bobby Lagana, Gary Pritchett and the entire CAPCO team for pulling off the improbable, as well as making good on Steve’s vow to come back and win the title after having it ripped from his hands last year. Enjoy the offseason, boys! You’re gonna have a huge target on your backs in 2019!